Hunt on for control of parish councils
IN LESS than 36 hours, the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will see if its campaign to target the most influential parish councils in the island has paid off, as Jamaicans vote in the traditionally low-turnout local government elections tomorrow.
The JLP is facing a 14-0 deficit for control, including the Portmore Municipality.
The key councils being targeted include the 40-council Kingston and St Andrew Corporation (KSAC), St Catherine (41), Clarendon (22), Portmore Municipality (12), St Ann (16), and St James (17). Maximum control, though unlikely, of the named councils could see the party having more than half of the 228 divisions being sought, and in municipalities which wield the most power. Those councils, as well as Manchester, collect combined billions in revenue for central government from property taxes and fees payable to the local authority.
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie is one of the voices of the JLP’s media campaign, as well as for the party’s councillors/candidates. McKenzie, a former Kingston mayor, said all councils were important.
“Every council is important to the party and the programme we want to see through for the betterment of the Jamaican people. So, no one council is more important than the other, but we have targeted some and so we are putting out efforts where we believe we will get the best returns,” McKenzie said.
With an uncontested electronic and print media campaign, the JLP could be mistaken for the only party contesting the elections, except for a few orange flags in some communities. With an uncontested electronic and print media campaign, the JLP could be mistaken for the only party contesting the elections, except for a few orange flags in some communities.
However, the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP) has nearly two councillors to every one JLP in the 13 municipalities, as well as Portmore. The PNP has 150, the JLP 76 and there are two independents (former JLP mayor of Lucea Lester Crooks in Riverside, Hanover, and Paul Patmore in Lorrimers, Trelawny South).
The numbers are not lost on McKenzie.
“We intend to go in the trenches and fight for these divisions. And we expect that barring any unforeseen circumstances the voter turnout will be
low, but we are hoping that the people of Jamaica will carry us across the finish line,” he said during a motorcade in Golden Grove, St Ann, just over a week ago.
Tomorrow’s polls is being held under the cloud of the $600 million road-bushing controversy, which JLP General Secretary Dr Horace Chang has called a “coincidence”. The programme is now being investigated by Contractor General Dirk Harrison.
The election is also being run under the veil of disenfranchisement of nearly 4,900 registered
electors following the Supreme Courts’ boundary ruling in St Catherine.
PNP General Secretary Paul Burke, as well as general secretary-designate Julian Robinson, said the party expects to retain majority control. Burke said the campaign has been strategic for two reasons.
“One, we have mainly ran a ground campaign based on our philosophy of our core values. Second, our campaign has been impacted by funds. Anyone will tell you that the campaign will PNP General Secretary Paul Burke, as well as general secretary-designate Julian Robinson, said the party expects to retain majority control.
JLP seeks to take command PNP expects to remain in charge